House International Relations Committee Votes to Increase Peace Corps Funding; Follows Bi-Partisan Press Conference Urging Expansion of the Peace Corps

Washington, D.C., February 11, 1999—The House International Relations Committee voted today to authorize a 12 percent increase in the Peace Corps budget in fiscal year 2000. This would enable the agency to continue on the path to having 10,000 Peace Corps volunteers overseas by early in the next century, compared to about 6,700 today. "The popularity and success of the Peace Corps as an institution is a testament to the power of an idea that transcends both politics and partisanship," Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan said. "With thousands more volunteers serving overseas, the Peace Corps can increasingly help communities around the world gain access to clean water; grow more food; help prevent the spread of AIDS; teach English, math and science; help entrepreneurs start new businesses; and work with non-governmental organizations to protect the environment." The increase, the second in a multi-year plan proposed by President Clinton to expand the number of volunteers serving overseas, would boost the Peace Corps budget by $29 million, from $241 million this fiscal year to $270 million next year. More than 30 representatives, including all five former Peace Corps volunteers in the House, have signed onto the bill, which will be the first time the Peace Corps Act has been reauthorized since 1993. Senators Paul Coverdell, R-Ga., and Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., the Chairman and ranking Member of the Senate authorizing subcommittee, will introduce a companion measure in the next few weeks. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert has scheduled a floor vote for the week of February 22. U.S. Reps. Tom Campbell, R-Calif., along with House International Relations Committee Chairman Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y., and the ranking Member, Sam Gejdenson, D-Conn., led the Congressional effort to reauthorize the Peace Corps Act, which endorses the expansion. Last year, President Clinton endorsed the goal of 10,000 Peace Corps volunteers, which Congress formally approved in 1985. "This is part of our foreign assistance program that works the hardest and gives the most back to our country," Campbell said at a press conference prior to the vote. "I couldn\'t be prouder to lead this bi-partisan effort to expand the Peace Corps." Those who attended the news conference at the U.S. Capitol this morning included Republican Congressmen: Tom Campbell, Calif., Benjamin Gilman, N.Y., James Walsh, N.Y, Christopher Shays, Conn., and Tom Petri, Wisc. (Walsh, Shays, and Petri are all former volunteers). Democratic Congressmen who attended this morning included: Minority Whip David Bonior, Mich., Sam Farr, Calif. (a former volunteer), Earl Pomeroy, N.D., and Donald Payne, N.J. Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan, Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala (former Peace Corps volunteer), and Roland Johnson, Chairman of the Board, National Peace Corps Association, were also in attendance. Last October, Congress approved a $241 million budget for the agency, which will enable the Peace Corps to field 7,400 volunteers by the end of this fiscal year, the largest number of volunteers in 25 years.

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